Monday in the First Week of Advent
Matthew 8:5-11 -World English Bible
5 When he came into Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking him, 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant lies in the house paralyzed, grievously tormented.”
7 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 The centurion answered, “Lord, I’m not worthy for you to come under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I am also a man under authority, having under myself soldiers. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and tell another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and tell my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed, “Most certainly I tell you, I haven’t found so great a faith, not even in Israel. 11 I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, 12 but the children of the Kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Jesus said to the centurion,“Go your way. Let it be done for you as you have believed. His servant was healed in that hour.
The healing of the centurion's servant is a touching story of faith, the strong trust a Gentile soldier had in the Master. Underneath this healing were the strains of brute power and social prejudice. The centurion represented the tangible symbol of imperial oppression (indeed, Roman soldiers were underpaid and, so, were expected to extort money from those they ruled in order to supplement their income). No wonder the Jews resented such domination by a foreign power in the Promised Land. So, the people who witnessed the centurion's request might have been surprise, even offended.
Yet, Jesus used the request and the soldier's military analogy about the chain of command to make a point about faith. God doesn't play favorites; the Chosen People were no better than the Gentiles. In fact, those of great faith (like the centurion) would enjoy the Kingdom, while those who expected their place before God as a birthright would be sorely disappointed. Trust in the power of the Lord, not mere reliance on his promises gains one entrance into the Kingdom.
Do you approach God with humility or expectation?Top of the page
Tuesday in the First Week of Advent
Luke 10:21-24 - World English Bible
21 In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for so it was well-pleasing in your sight.”
22 Turning to the disciples, he said, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is, except the Father, and who the Father is, except the Son, and he to whomever the Son desires to reveal him.”
23 Turning to the disciples, he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see, 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.”
In this gospel reading from Luke, Jesus made three statements: a thanksgiving prayer about revelation, the intimacy between Father and Son (revealed to the faithful), a beatitude of witness to the Good News. The prayer echoed one of Luke's themes: God's care for the marginal. This sentiment could be found in the Magnificat, for example, where the arrogant would be toppled and the humble would be raised up. In Jesus' prayer, the poor would have the Good News preached to them, while the rich and learned would not hear God's message..
In the second statement, the sound of this declaration could have come from John's gospel; the Father had given everything into the hands of Jesus, his Son. 10:22b stated revelation; no one truly knew the Son, unless the Son revealed himself. In other words, faith was a matter of divine initiative.
The beatitude of discipleship was the blessing of hearing the Good News, the words of salvation.
So, the passage proclaimed the power of the Good News, given to the marginalized of society, revealing the true Son of God and a blessing to those who can hear and become disciples. This all was the will of the Father.
When was the last time you really heard the Good News?Top of the page
Wednesday in the First Week of Advent
Matthew 15:29-37 - World English Bible
29 Jesus departed there, and came near to the sea of Galilee; and he went up into the mountain, and sat there. 30 Great multitudes came to him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others, and they put them down at his feet. He healed them, 31 so that the multitude wondered when they saw the mute speaking, injured whole, lame walking, and blind seeing—and they glorified the God of Israel.
32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away fasting, or they might faint on the way.”
33 The disciples said to him, “Where should we get so many loaves in a deserted place as to satisfy so great a multitude?”
34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”
35 He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground; 36 and he took the seven loaves and the fish. He gave thanks and broke them, and gave to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes. 37 They all ate, and were filled. They took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces that were left over.
This passage from Matthew presented Jesus as the Master, both Teacher and Healer. Like the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus went up onto a mountain and sat (a traditional posture for teaching). His mode of teaching the Good News, however, was action; he cared for those at his feet. He healed and fed the multitudes with bread and fish. In the food miracle, the number seven was significant; it represented fullness, completion. He blessed seven loaves; his followers collected seven baskets afterwards. Just as he made those with illness whole, he also filled the hungry crowd. Wholeness, then was the lesson of the Good News and, in response, the people praised God.
Do you feel whole when you hear the Good News?Top of the page
Thursday in the First Week of Advent
Matthew 7:21, 24-27 - World English Bible
21 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
24 “Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. 25 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
What is the least I can do to be saved? Many theologians have asked this question throughout the history of the Church, but it is the wrong question. The real question of salvation is: how can I do your will, Lord? Saying, "Lord, Lord" is not enough. Jesus does not want believers, he wants disciples.
So, what does it mean to be a disciple? And, what advantages does discipleship bring the person? To be a true disciple is to listen to the Lord, first, then act. This is the road to true wisdom, the virtue that grounds the disciple, allowing him to pick the right time to speak and to act. Over time, the disciple who intently listens to the Lord slowly builds his life on a sure foundation, and is able to weather the storms of hard times. The person who simply says "Lord, Lord" and goes on his merry way does not take the time to truly hear God in the first place. He runs from activity to activity and build his life on the shifting sands of self interest. In hard times, his life falls apart.
If we were to ask the question of the least effort for salvation, the answer would have to be "Listen."
Have you sat quietly today, to listen to the Lord?Top of the page
Friday in the First Week of Advent
Matthew 9:27-31 - World English Bible
27 As Jesus passed by from there, two blind men followed him, calling out and saying, “Have mercy on us, son of David!”
28 When he had come into the house, the blind men came to him. Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
They told him, “Yes, Lord.”
29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” 30 Their eyes were opened. Jesus strictly commanded them, saying, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread abroad his fame in all that land.
In verses that echoed the healing of blind Bartemaeus (Mark 10:46-52), Matthew presented two blind men who called out "Have mercy on us, Son of David." 9:27 set the stage for the cure with the number of blind men (two, the number of witnesses needed to present a claim in Jewish court) and the phrase "Son of David" (not referring to Davidic linage, per se, but to Solomon, the wisest of David's heirs). Two men sought sight by appealing to a title and, with a little reverse psychology, by trying to force the hand of the Master through social embarrassment. Jesus preached God's wisdom, so, the logic goes, so he could prove that wisdom by healing the men. If he refused, he then had two detractors who could claim the man from Nazareth was a charlatan. But, if he did, he had two examples, two witnesses to the veracity of his power. He did give the men their sight, because of their faith (indeed, their chutzpa). Did that stop the story from spreading? No, of course not.
How has God healed you? How do you share that healing with others?Top of the page
Saturday in the First Week of Advent
Matthew 9:35-10:1 - World English Bible
35 Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people. 36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest indeed is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 Pray therefore that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into his harvest.”
1 He called to himself his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness.
Matthew's gospel reported the reputation of Jesus had spread. He gave the people something they yearned for: the presence and and power of God. The people responded, yet, they were "harassed and scatter, like sheep without a shepherd." In other words, they lacked leadership to guide them to God, hence, he prayed for such leadership and bestowed it upon his disciples.
As Christians, we are part of that great harvest; we share in the leadership of Christ when we evangelize those who yearn for the presence and power of the Father.
Did you share the Good News this week?Top of the page